In this segment we'll continue from Part 1 with five more Rules of the Road which you will need to know in order to be your best on stage. Let's take a look at some more pro tips:
Rule number three: Don't overplay. A cluttered arrangement just sounds like chaos and makes the band sound sloppy. Play what is required and save the riffs for when the band leader asks you to take a solo. And remember that less really is more; you don't always need to play all six strings at once, sometimes a two or three note chord will sound the best. Don't feel the need to fill every bit of space. Space is good for the mix, trust me. An important aspect of this is knowing when to get out of the way. Try reducing your volume intensity, simplifying your part, or (horrors!) sitting out the section to create dynamics when the singer or another instrument is being featured. Remember great music is a blend, and that takes a team effort.
Rule number four: Don't compete with the other musicians. You won't get any medals for proving you're better than the next guy. Sure, sometimes it is entertaining for musicians to trade solos in a competitive way. Save the competitive spirit for the times it will add to the show rather than distracting from it. If you really want to impress the band, wait until they ask you to step out and shine. Watch them begin to tell people how amazing you are once you master this principle.
Rule number five: Take the unexpected in stride. Pros don't get ruffled if the client asks for a song they aren't familiar with, they find a way to honor the request. Perhaps you show up and the management says they want you to wait until after a sporting event that's going long on the wide screen TVs. Maybe you find out at the last minute that this gig doesn't allow any breaks. What if you break a string in the middle of your big solo? Can you adjust if a guest vocalist wants to play the song a step or two lower? If not, refer to rule number three and stay out of the way so the other team members can guide you. Secret hint: you can probably even get away with playing with your guitar completely turned down if you don't know the song without anyone but the band knowing. Make sure you look like that is the way the show is supposed to go, and odds are you'll make it through. What if they put music in front of you? Hopefully you took our previous article on preparation seriously and you can read music, but if not, avoid figuring out the parts in a conspicuous way.
Rule number six: Always be nice. Remember to stay friendly and positive when interacting with everyone, from the band members, to the management, to the annoying fan trying to request a song in the middle of your solo. If you get an unreasonable request, refer to rule number four and take it in stride. People appreciate an honest effort combined with a great attitude, and they notice it a lot more than they notice your unparalleled musical skill. Be a team player.
Rule number seven: Disappear like a ghost after the performance. Strike your gear from the stage quickly, quietly and efficiently. If your role demands that you stop to interact with the fans after the show, hire a stage tech to tear down for you. Leave the stage area clean when you leave even if it was cluttered when you arrived. Club managers remember which bands respect their establishment in this way, and which ones leave it a mess, even if they don't bother to clean the stage between shows. Just like being on time, this always works to your advantage even if nobody else bothers to do the same. Be the nice surprise in someone's day and watch the phone begin to ring. Everybody likes a performer that is easy to work with and getting out of the way without a trace is part of the job. Make it a priority.
Starting out in the music business isn't easy; it takes diligence and hard work to earn your first opportunities, and a proactive approach to delivering a professional performance. Learn these concepts and make them an automatic part of your art, and you will find success will come much easier for you. Stay tuned for our final installments of this series where we will learn about Getting the Gig and Keeping the Gig. Focus on being the best you can be on your first gig. Now go out there and knock 'em dead!
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